© 2017-2021, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

Buzz the Apiary

Honeybee Care

The greatest concept of apiary management that we must understand is that caring for honeybees “Beekeeping is a science…not a hobby.” Often, you will hear people say that they would like to keep honeybees and get some real raw honey, possibly for their own consumption or maybe to sell to others. In either case, the “beekeeper” knows that their apiary and bees require constant attention.  Once the “beekeeper” has a firm grasp of this ideology and comprehends the enormous amount of research and education which is required to properly care for your apiary then, you will know that “hobbies” are “mood-based” pleasures which required no active maintenance to ensure the hobby does not die. Hobbies are always “mood-based” and beekeeping cannot bee, because of the nature and required interaction between the beekeeper and the honeybee.

Beekeeping is a Science…Not a Hobby…

Proper Apiary Management is so important that even experienced “beekeepers” can have bad experiences with their hives dying (dead-outs) as a result of pests, weather, insecticides,  or beekeeper neglect. It cannot be stressed enough that practicing proper and regular hive maintenance is a must if the apiary is to survive, especially during a long winter season. Of course, if one lives in an area when winter seems to be a “wonderland,” then it is imperative that the beekeeper make special preparations for heir “apiary survival.” If pests like the Varroa mite are not found early enough and controlled properly then, those “fat” honeybees who need these fat reserves for flying and maintaining proper body heat will fast become “thin”  and “weak” bees who wither and often die instantly during the first sub-zero temperature change the hive experiences.

Learning from experience, this beekeeper lost a hive on January 21, 2018 with over 35,000 bees and lots of honey remaining.  When someone tells you that honeybees can handle subzero temperatures like -5 F to -20 F and such, take it with a spoon of “honey” and hope that you have maintained your apiary to the best of your ability. Even when performing timely inspections and treating for any pests found in the hives it is still a daunting challenge. In 2018, the ZBees Apiary grew from the one remaining hive of 2017 into six hives during the 2018 season and contained upwards of 300,000 honeybees. However, the many inspections and treatments to eradicate the Varroa destructor was not enough to prevent four of the hive from dead-outs between 18 December 2018 and 2 January 2019. The Varroa had long done its damage to all of the colonies except one. The sugar-shake tests, oxalic acid and ApiVar treatments helped to kill of hundreds of mites but, the internal damage to 80% of the apiary was done. It took 11-13 weeks for the give to die out.

Other beekeepers asked if I had inspected and treated the hives, YES I did. Other beekeepers asked if I treated enough times, YES I did. Other beekeepers also asked what I thought might bee the problem. My response was this, “It is my researched conclusion that the ‘genetics’ of the queen has the most to do with the survival of the hive, both in terms of diseases, pest, and climate changes.” As of February 2019, I have sent samples of the dead-out hive off for testing.

Case in point for these first year hives:

Hive H1L had a mixed Carnolian/Italian queen from April 2017. When she is compared to the same type queen in hive H1L, which I also

Hive H2L has the same mixed Carnolian/Italian queen from April 2017 and there is a resounding difference between this queen and the one from H1L.

In conclusion, it is February 2019 and hive H2L is the only remaining hive at this time and upon a recent inspection of 7 February she is still moving about. There are only about 300-400 workers still alive, no eggs or larvae, and the hive has plenty of honey, pollen, and bee-bread reserves to see them through until the spring buildup. The same weather that froze the other five hives during these past two winters as not frozen this queen and her offspring. Thus, it can be concluded that her genetics are such that she is producing healthier and more hardy offspring than the previous queens were able to produce. This is why beekeeping is not a “hobby.” It is a science which requires constant maintenance, research, data gathering, and analysis of the conditions of each hive within the apiary.

“There are beekeepers… and there are people who just keep bees.”

(Michael Zachary - August 2016)